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National Parks face significant cuts as budget deadline looms
There is no doubt that America's national parks are popular attractions. On a collective basis, the parks now host more than 280 million visitors per year, giving travelers access to some of the most beautiful and historically important places in the entire country. Those places need to be protected and preserved for the future – something that is increasingly more challenging in today's political and economic climate. A number of parks, such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, have already delayed much needed repairs and upgrades due to a lack of funds.
Last week, in anticipation of a potential cut to the Park Service budget, the National Parks Conservation Association released a intriguing report entitled Made In America: Investing in National Parks for Our Heritage and Our Economy. The report is packed full of information that highlights the importance of the parks not only for American history and culture, but also the economy. For instance, did you know that the parks are responsible for more than 270,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollar in local revenue across the country? Budget shortfalls could mean the closure of some parks, which would have a dramatic impact on surrounding communities.
The NPCA points out that if the 9% cut takes effect, the Park Service will see its budget reduced by $231 million. Considering the Park Service's current budget is already more than $400 million below what it was a decade ago, you can begin to understand why this is such a huge concern.
These changes would have a damaging effect on the communities that surround the park too. When visitors no longer get the experience they had hoped for out of a park, they will decide to go elsewhere, taking their money along with them. That drop in revenue in those communities would have a direct impact on local business and lead to a loss of jobs as well.
Reading through the NPCA report two numbers stood out to me. First, the document cites a poll in which more than 85 percent of Americans said that they supported full funding for the national parks. That impressive number only servers to further demonstrate how well loved those wild places truly are. The other number that stood out was that less than 1/13th of one percent of the total U.S. budget actually goes to the parks. I'd say that makes them an amazing bargain considering some of the other things our tax dollars have gone to over the years.
With the November 23rd deadline looming, lets hope some of the men and women in Washington D.C. are as impressed with those numbers as well.